Skipping Around, My Bad: NYTBR 27 January 2008

Self has mis-laid the NYTBR issue of 20 January 2008. That was the weekend self was in San Luis Obispo, so she was understandably a *wee* bit distracted.

But today the weather is gorgeous, dear blog reader! It is the first sunny day in northern California since — since perhaps the weekend that Melissa A visited, three weekends ago.

Without further ado, here is the list of books self is interested in reading after perusing the 27 January 2008 issue of The New York Times Book Review:

(1) After reading J. R. Moehringer’s review of William T. Vollmann’s latest book, Riding Toward Everywhere:

William T. Vollmann’s Riding Toward Everywhere

(2) After reading Troy Patterson’s review of Adam Langer’s third novel, Ellington Boulevard: A Novel in A-Flat:

Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth
Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City
Adam Langer’s Ellington Boulevard: A Novel in A-Flat

(3) After reading Christopher Benfey’s review of Pat Barker’s new novel, Life Class:

Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory
Pat Barker’s Life Class

The Republican Party: A De-Construction, & Some Thoughts on “Sweeney Todd”

From The Economist, Jan. 12, 2008:

Twice as many Democrats turned out to caucus in Iowa as Republicans. The Democrats are fired up with Bush-hatred and ready to take the White House. The Republicans are despondent and defensive. “I’d rather vote for a dead dog than a Democrat,” one New Hampshirite told this columnist. “But the way things are going it might have to be the dead dog.”

The party has flailed around for a champion without success. Rudy Giuliani led the national polls for months only to implode. Fred Thompson sped to the front for a while only to fall asleep at the wheel. The party is divided into warring factions. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have as much in common as their respective alma maters — Harvard Business School and Ouachita Baptist University. The party is also in danger of going off the deep end. Mr. Huckabee denies that man is descended from the apes. Everyone except Mr. McCain seems to think that it’s a good plan to send 12m illegal immigrants back home.

* * * *

Jay Leno, quoted in The New York Times of Sunday, 20 January 2008:

    While he was in Saudi Arabia this week, President Bush met with the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. You know, President Bush is not good in these social situations. Like, he kept asking the prince about his sister, Paula Abdullah.

(Self just couldn’t resist this one, dear blog readers, which — cross her heart — she happened to read while watching “American Idol.” How’s that for synchronicity?)

* * * *

And, finally, self would really really like to know: Read the rest of this entry »

And Now, Sundance

Self is trying to decide whether to see the film adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, “Persepolis” (showing in Aquarius), or “Sweeney Todd,” showing right here in Redwood City. It’s cold, but not death-defyingly cold. Funny, self was talking about the weather to cousin in Virginia yesterday, and cousin was saying she hoped the weather in Vienna, VA would “get up to 40.”

The weather in Tel Aviv? Brother e-mailed: “About 14 degrees. It is snowing.”

While self is racking her brains, she might as well list the recent winners from Sundance. The quotes are from an Associated Press article, reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle of Sunday, 27 Jan:

Best U. S. Drama: “Frozen River,” about “a struggling single mother in upstate New York who teams up with a Mohawk woman to smuggle people across the Canadian border.”

Grand Jury Award, U. S. Documentary: “Trouble the Water,” about “the survival of a New Orleans couple through Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath”

Audience Award, Favorite U. S. Drama: “The Wackness,” which “stars a loose and lively Ben Kingsley as a psychiatrist who trades therapy for marijuana”

Jury Prize and Cinematography Prize, World Cinema Drama: “King of Ping Pong,” a Swedish film “about two at-odds brothers who uncover their family history over spring break”

Jury Prize and Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary: “Man on Wire,” British director “James Marsh’s retelling of French artist Philippe Petit’s daring — and illegal — 1974 wire-walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center”

Audience Award, Favorite U. S. Documentary: “Fields of Fuel,” activist-filmmaker “Josh Tickell’s call to break the United States from dependence on oil”

Audience Award, Favorite World Cinema: “Captain Abu Raed,” the “first feature film from Jordan in 50 years”

Special Jury Prize for Work by an Ensemble Cast: “Choke,” an “adaptation of a Chuck Palahniuk novel,” which stars Anjelica Huston and Sam Rockwell

News of the World, 28 January 2008

Hillary is getting hoarse Read the rest of this entry »

Roeper’s Top 10 Movies of 2007

A re-play, but what the hell, fits with the “movie theme” of the night!

Starting in reverse order, w/ #10 (and, alongside, co-critic A. O. Scott’s Top 10)

“Paris, je t’aime” / “Knocked Up”
Once/ “The Savages”
Superbad/ “Into the Wild”
“Zodiac” / “There Will Be Blood”
Gone Baby Gone/ “12:08 East of Bucharest”
“American Gangster” / “Terror’s Advocate”
Juno/ “I’m Not There”
“The Lookout” / “Sweeney Todd”
Read the rest of this entry »

Trying to Sew a Button on a Shirt (While Watching “Cavite”)

Admittedly, self has not used her time all that wisely while hubby is in Manila.

She should have been doing loads and loads of writing.

Instead, she:

    Drove to San Luis Obispo, where she watched “Cloverfield” and then spent some aimless hours wandering the Embarcadero in Morro Bay with son (after all the shops and restaurants had closed)
    Watched “Colma, the Musical”
    Fantasized about getting admitted to a residency in some exotic location like Liguria (While not actually filling out any application forms)

Since today is Sunday (admittedly, a Day of Rest), self has decreed that tonight will be “Movie Night.” It all started when she landed on F/X and found herself watching Spidey 2. Self had no idea she would find it all so involving. James Franco and William Dafoe must be the cutest father-son team since, since — since Brando and Pacino in “The Godfather”? Or Christian Bale and son in “3:10 to Yuma”?. And Alfred Molina is very funny and manages to find a human heart inside those waving steel tentacles.

So, self decides that she’s going to go to San Carlos. Why? Because it gets exceedingly boring staying home all day if there is no one to talk to. And in San Carlos, self does the following:

    Finds the only thing worth buying for $2.25 in The Chef Shop on Laurel Street: a 26.5 oz. bottle of Italian rock salt.
    Rents “Rescue Dawn” from Blockbuster because a) it is directed by Werner Herzog; b) stars Christian Bale; c) is a Vietnam “escape” movie, and therefore not depressing and d) Star, fellow fellow at VCCA last August, highly recommended it
    Drops all her coins into a sidewalk newspaper stand so she can get a copy of the Sunday Chronicle with headline OBAMA WINS BIG IN S. CAROLINA

Now, back home with her treasures, self settles down on couch in front of flat-screen HDTV, removes indie Filipino movie “Cavite” from Netflix packaging, takes out her sewing kit (well, actually hubby’s sewing kit, the very same one that his mum packed for him when he left Manila for Stanford, oh those many many moons ago), and prepares to multi-task.

Holy Cow! This movie has amazing sound. Movie has barely started when self feels she is standing smack-dab in the middle of a busy Manila intersection. And the hero is plain-looking and dark, so self surmises the director must be Fil-Am (for, in Filipino movies self watched while she was growing up, the heroes were always “mestizo” — pale-complexioned and Spanish-looking). The beagles keep cocking their ears whenever a new sound starts up on the screen. These are the very self-same animals who lay asleep all through the terrific sound effects of Spidey 2.

And, one thing self has to say about the device of this film (which also involves a running commentary from an unseen character, much like running commentary in “Cloverfield” — and just as annoying, self might add), it really does work. And, since there is only one actor, running hither and thither, the city (Cavite), too, becomes a character.

And, self has heard her name (“Batchoy”) mentioned several times in this film already, but she believes it is a reference to someone being fat, and not a reference to self (Apologies, dear blog reader, self simply could not resist the urge to make a corny joke!)

Oooh, self is really beginning to enjoy Netflix. She’s going to keep using it to rent Filipino movies. Next one will be a documentary about female overseas workers that she read won an award in the Queens International Film Festival.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Self Begs Loyal Blog Readers’ Indulgence

For she is still perusing the Alumni Matters section of the Stanford Magazine, still engrossed in examining other lives.

Now, in contrast to previous post which highlighted the number of children/marriages/dogs/horses/jobs held by various sundry Stanford alums, self is perusing the obits. And here, interspersed with the obits for alums who met untimely deaths resulting from “household accidents” (in their 50s and early 60s — there are quite a number of these !!!), are two that self thinks are particularly worthy of note.

The first is for Edward Seidensticker.

Who remembers reading The Tale of Genji, dear blog readers? Self read it in Manila, when she was still in high school. For Dearest Mum, in addition to being beautiful beyond compare and the best pianist in the Philippines, was also an avid reader and had introduced self to the wonders of a book called The World of the Shining Prince, by Ivan Morris. And, years later, browsing in the Stanford Bookstore, self stumbled on a version of Lady Shikibu Murasaki’s The Tale of the Shining Prince, the translation by Edward Seidensticker.

The strange thing is, the obit notes that Seidensticker, though 86, did not die from illness but from a head injury, which puts him in the same category as those alums who died at much younger ages. Self imagines he must have been quite active, then, all the way until the end. Here are excerpts from his obit :

    Edward G. Seidensticker, of Tokyo, died August 26 (2007), at 86, of complications from a head injury. He was an eminent translator of Japanese who brought the work of ancient and modern writers to the English-speaking public . . . During World War II, he was a language officer with the Marines, and at war’s end worked as a translator in occupied Japan . . . He lived in Japan from 1948 to 1962. Upon his return to the United States he taught at Stanford and the University of Michigan before joining the Columbia faculty in 1978 where, at his death, he was a professor emeritus of Japanese literature. He was most widely known for his translation of The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu and works by novelist Yasunari Kawabata. He won a National Book Award in 1971 for his transaltion of Kawabata’s The Sound of the Mountain.

Next, dear blog readers, is a very different kind of obit. This one is for a seemingly ordinary man whose life was transformed by extraordinary circumstances:

    Bruce Martin Smith, ’58, of Homer, Alaska, died September 21 (2007) at 71, in a plane crash. He was the first family member to sue Libya after the 1988 bombing of Flight 103, in which his wife was among 270 people killed. After the terrorist attack he began a campaign to expand a federal program that offered rewards for information leading to the arrest of terrorist suspects. He persuaded airline trade groups to establish a parallel reward program. It now offers more than $4 million for tips that lead to the arrest of terrorists plotting to destroy airliners, and helped in the capture of the 1993 World Trade Center bomber, who was convicted of plotting to destroy U.S. airliners. After his first, failed suit against Libya, he lobbied Congress to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act so that families of victims could sue state sponsors of terrorism in United States courts. Eventually Libya paid $2.7 billion to the families of Flight 103. (Smith had three sons, two daughters, and four grandchildren.)

Self marvels that: (a) Smith’s wife’s death in a plane crash was what started this man’s transformation, and (b) that he, too, should have his life ended in a plane crash, almost 20 years later.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Northern California Storm Watch & A Book Launch

San Anselmo is flooding.

Drivers on 101 are being turned back from Sonoma and Napa County boundaries.

This morning, self (heroic) drove through pounding rain to teach her class at xxxx community college. Students begged to be let off early (for the third class in a row; naturally, self complied — ha ha ha ha!) Self still susceptible to explosive coughing fits, thank goodness none occurred while she was talking to students. Heater in self’s car apparently not working, all that comes out of air vents is freezing cold air. Self gets home, collapses on couch, falls asleep, and when she next opens her eyes, it’s pitch black outside.

Did self hear right? Federer was defeated in the Australian Open by someone whose name she didn’t quite catch.

House tonight was interesting, self has to sign a “literary submission agreement” for Hyphen, for two pieces that were published years ago.

Let’s see, what else?

Self called Manila and found that her brother and Ying had finally managed to leave — last night. They’re now in Bangkok. Tomorrow, they’ll be in Tel Aviv.

Self began writing a new story — strange, very detached voice; male point of view.

Oh, and she can’t attend the launch for Field of Mirrors, the new PAWAINC anthology, which is scheduled for Saturday, February 16, 6 PM in The Bayanihan Community Center (6th and Mission) in San Francisco. She and hubby are having dinner that night with hubby’s aunt, who’s stopping over briefly in San Francisco. But here are the list of writers represented in the anthology:

Alabado, Ceres S.C. * Amoroto, Patricia Isabel * Almiron, Jennifer * Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, Those Deadly San Francisco Streetcars

First of all, it’s raining cats and dogs (again). Self woke up with a splitting headache. Martha had dinner with self last night, and brought a surprise dessert: two huge slices of chocolate cheesecake from Max’s Opera CafĂ© (Aaaaaargh). Martha declared self “sick” (which self very well knows). Dogs were uncommonly cloying, going to Martha again and again and laying their heads on her lap, which action Martha did not find particularly enjoyable, as then beagle hair gets all over her clothes (Beagles shed copiously, contrary to what self and hubby first thought when choosing which breeds to adopt — ha ha ha!)

This morning, while reading the San Francisco Chronicle of a week ago, self stumbles upon article on “ghastly streetcar deaths.” Here are excerpts:

The grisly death Wednesday night of a man dragged by a San Francisco streetcar marked the first Muni-related fatality of the year — and based on the transit system’s track record, it probably won’t be the last.

In 2007, eight people were run over and and killed by Municipal Railway streetcars and buses, double the number in 2006.

* * * *

“We’re going to get this under control,” Municipal Transportation Agency chief Nathaniel Ford said Thursday. “It’s not about money, it’s not about time, it’s not about effort. We’re doing everything we can.”

The incidents have happened at various times — the earliest at 6:25 a.m., the latest at 11:08 p.m. They occurred in different neighborhoods: the Tenderloin, the Western Addition, the Castro, Noe Valley, the Richmond, Ingleside, Portola. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 83.

In three of the eight cases last year, police investigators deemed that the pedestrians were most at fault.

In one case, the Muni driver was charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Two of the deaths were ruled suicides; in two others, a determination of blame has not been made.

But anytime a streetcar, which can weigh more than 52 tons when fully loaded, or a bus, which can weigh up to 40 tons, comes into contact with a pedestrian, the outcome is bound to be bleak.

Which brings to mind the incident, almost 30 years ago, when one of self’s Filipino colleagues at Stanford was run over by a Samtrans bus. He was a first-year student in the Business School; he was almost legally blind and walked everywhere with a cane. One day, he was trying to catch a bus that was just pulling away from a stop on El Camino. And he stumbled. And the rear wheels of the bus ran over his leg. Witnesses said that the bus was moving very slowly; in fact, they said the whole thing seemed to be taking place in slow motion. After that, self’s friend drove everywhere around the Stanford campus in a go-cart, his leg (with a cast) propped up on the seat. And then he moved to Texas. And self never heard from him again. His first name was George.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Eavesdropping & Other News

Yesterday, terribly sick, coughing in class. Had to get students to help self with lecture because self could hardly speak (what with lozenges in her mouth). No one, of course, had read the text for the day. But self dismissed class early again and afterwards a red-haired student named Mikaila came up to self and told her to put Vicks Vaporub in the bottom of a bowl, fill it with hot water and then huddle over the bowl with a towel over her head. Another gave self two lemons (!!@@) to put in her tea.

Overheard on the New York subway and posted in Gawker.com: Philip Seymour Hoffman and a male friend discussing their latest project and then seguing into their sadness over Heath Ledger’s death.

Safeway yesterday after class: Heath’s face on People Magazine. His death is truly heartbreaking.

Tuesday, called son and asked, Did you hear, Heath Ledger died? He said he already knew, someone had texted him. And he too professed shock but said that plans were already underway to organize a Heath Ledger retrospective. “But you’re not showing Brokeback Mountain?” self asked (Self truly one-track minded about the Christians in Cal Poly) “Oh, we might,” son nonchalantly replies.

This morning, self reads tribute Ledger’s family posted in The Western Australian:

“You dreamed your dreams and lived them with passion and intelligent commitment. We have been privileged to accompany you on a ride through life that has simply been amazing and through it all we have loved each other beyond imagination,” the notice added. “Our hearts are broken.”

The saddest words are from Ledger’s father:

“Heatho, Beef … my beautiful boy, so loving, so talented, so independent … so no more chess games mate … this is it, couldn’t beat you anyway.”

* * * * *

And, in other news:

Sunday, Jan. 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day – Day established by the United Nations to commemorate the Holocaust.

Monday, Jan. 28 is the Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas (Also, the birthday of Dearest Hubby. Also, the birthday of Dear Departed Sister. Also, the birthday of Dear Departed Father-in-Law. Also, the birthday of hubby’s good friend, Rayvi)

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